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The BIG Reason

Music, opinions, and portfolio of Mark Eagleton, musician and web developer in Northern CA.

Selective Sounds Sensitivity Syndrome awareness bracelet
My Selective Sounds Sensitivity Syndrome awareness bracelet. Some people say selective. Some say soft. SSSS.

Loudness Is Not A Factor For Misophonia Trigger Sounds

The Newcastle Paper is really riding the news cycle. Pretty much every post to /r/misophonia this past week has been an article about the study. That is awesome! However, I feel I need to point out a common misconception I see repeated in many of these articles—especially by those who suffer from Misophonia: that loudness is a factor for trigger sounds. It is not, and I think saying otherwise can cause avoidable hardships down the line.

Misophonia is also known as soft sound sensitivity syndrome (at least by those of us who have been aware of the condition for more than a few years). Soft sounds such as those made when chewing, swallowing, clearing throats, sniffing, clicking pens, and clicking keyboards are frequently identified by sufferers as being the most common that trigger the fight or flight reaction associated with the disorder. These sounds are not typically thought of as having the characteristic of being loud, which is partly why Misophonia seems so unreasonably bizarre.

Even though some keyboards and some eaters can be louder than others, there is not yet any data suggesting that loudness is a factor when measuring the degree of a reaction to a trigger sound. It could prove to be in the future when more research has been done, but in my experience, and from what I gather reading articles about these studies as well as commentary by sufferers, is that quiet sounds trigger just as severely as louder sounds. This is certainly the case for me.

It is very common for a Misophonia sufferer to complain about the loudness of eating noises. I think this has more to do with a lack of vocabulary to describe sound, or simply being too caught up in the heat of the moment, than it does with accurately describing the reason for a reaction. Often in the same breath one uses to complain about the loudness of a trigger sound, they will continue on about how the smallest nuance of a sound can set them off. Obviously one cannot be triggered by a sound they can’t hear. If you can mask your eating sounds to an inaudible level, we aren’t going to have a problem. If, on the other hand, you discretely snack on nuts with your mouth closed, quietly swallow a sip of water, or speak to me with half of an apple in your mouth, you have figuratively slapped me in the face. Pretty much any effort put into reducing the sound is useless, and at best only patronizes the sufferer in their irrational state.

Assuming quieter trigger sounds cause less stress than louder ones is only going to result in more unwanted exposure. It is best for everyone if the Misophonia sufferer remove themselves from the situation, or precautions are taken to not expose the sufferer without some sort of ambient noise to mask trigger sounds.